5 Genius Ways to Use Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth, referred to simply as DE, is a natural sedimentary rock composed of fossilized remains of microscopic algae called diatoms. It has a powdery texture and is rich in silica. Diatomaceous earth is commonly used as an insecticide, filter agent and abrasive substance. It can absorb moisture and is often found in household products and gardening applications.

DE is inexpensive and available commercially in two versions: 1) for pool filters and 2) labeled as “food grade” for human health and pest control. This post applies to Food Grade diatomaceous earth. To make use of what follows, make sure your DE purchase is clearly labeled as food grade.


While you should be able to find food-grade diatomaceous earth at home centers like Home Depot and Lowe’s, you may have trouble finding it in store. I don’t know why these stores do not stock it but instead offer to deliver it to the store near you or charge extra for home delivery. I continue to find the best deals on Amazon Prime.


Mix 3/4 cup baking soda and 1/4 cup cornstarch in a small bowl. Using a fork, mix in 4 tablespoons of melted coconut oil. Continue adding coconut oil until the deodorant reaches your preferred consistency. Transfer the mixture to a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

To use: With your fingertips, apply a small amount to your underarms as needed.


DE, with its fine powder texture, can be used as a gentle facial scrub and mask. It contains minerals like silica, calcium and zinc, which can be absorbed by the skin.

To use DE as an excellent facial scrub and mask, mix 1 tablespoon of DE with water, milk, aloe vera gel or diluted honey to make a thin paste. Massage it onto the face, let it sit for 1-2 minutes, and then wipe it off with a warm washcloth for exfoliation.


For extra thorough cleaning, lightly sprinkle a small amount of DE onto your regular toothpaste-loaded toothbrush. Its gentle abrasiveness means that only a small quantity is necessary to effectively eliminate stains. However, it should only be used occasionally, i.e., once a week.


Diatomaceous earth is my first line of defense against ants and other creepy crawlies in and around the home because it’s nontoxic, readily available and it just plain works! Make sure you’re using food-grade diatomaceous earth (not swimming pool DE, which is chemically altered).

Sprinkle the food-grade DE outside around the perimeter of your home. You can also safely sprinkle it inside where you see the ants — as long as it is food grade, it is totally nontoxic.

If the DE you select does not come with a powder duster, make sure you have one so you can strategically distribute the DE exactly where you want it.

Once the ants (or any kind of crawling bugs) walk in the fine powder, they’ll die because the DE quietly destroys their exoskeletons.


Experts recommend mixing diatomaceous earth into your chicken’s daily feed since it contains many trace minerals, including silica. This study shows that adding silica to chicken feed can increase their average daily body weight gain and improve feed conversion ratio. Another study suggests that DE can help reduce parasites in chickens.

The FDA has approved it for use as an anti-caking agent in commercial livestock feed at a rate of 2% of the overall weight. That’s the guideline that many people follow. (In case you’re wondering what that looks like practically, for 25 pounds of feed, you would add 1/2 pound of DE to achieve the 2% ratio.)

Backyard chicken keepers also use DE to control pests in their flock and coop.

To learn more uses for DE around your home and garden, meet me at where you will find more information and nine more genius uses for food-grade diatomaceous earth.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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